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SCIENCE (is medieval)
posted by John : January 12, 2012

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Le Trebuchet

Ok, ok. Enough with the French. I still haven't forgiven them for making me feel the fool or putting dog poop under my feet or rolling over for the Germans. Plus I didn't learn very much on trip to France in high school. Of course, I was with 10 women so... yeah.

Anyway: Trebuchets! I don't know why I love them, but I do. Perhaps it was the visit on one of those trips to France or the idea that the French used them to throw cows or that they were used in Roslyn to throw pianos. Regardless. COOL!

I've had a couple French models on a shelf in the garage (of trebuchets, sicko) for... oh... I don't know. 10 YEARS! And before those 10 years they were in the garage at our old house. But SCIENCE finally gave me a chance to put them together and be educational at the same time.

I mean, how else are you going to demonstrate the concepts of potential energy and kinetic energy. Duh. Trebuchets.

It took several long nights to get it assembled. Partially because the French suck at providing instructions. Partially because glue takes a long time to dry. Partially because understanding Siano's 65 paper on trebuchet mechanics was a wee bit beyond the physics I took in college.

But SCIENCE does not come easy so we persevered. Night after night I worked late gluing and clamping until... it was ready.

I really wanted to start by throwing a cow, but we had no cows. I know. A travesty. Plus, Henry sometimes calls the cows in North Bend "elk." Not that we had any little elk, but... I forget where I was going with this.

RIGHT! Throwing stuff. Rocks, of course. With a counterweight to projectile ratio of 100:1 we were set to throw these rocks... a foot. Hmph. We tried a bunch of different approaches, sizes, lengths of rope, everything. But got almost know distance. I was about to give up and Lilly and Henry had given up.

Clara, though, was ready to keep working. I set up the camera and recorded a foot-long shot and played it back frame by frame.




Goo -- WAIT! What's that? The rope is being pushed by the crank.

Remove the crank and voila! (As the French might say.)

The first shot rocketed into the cabinets. The next one went over the wall and into the stairwell. We fired a few more before I realized I was asking for trouble and perhaps we should wait for a weather window to try our luck outside.

And there's another model in the garage. Maybe we'll have to have a battle. Or scale it up.

(And this is only part one of a three part experiment that will culminate in... well... you'll have to wait because Clara reads this now. (Hi, Clara!))

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